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Postmortem studies suggest that schizophrenia is associated with abnormal expression of specific GABAA receptor (GABAAR) α subunits, including α5GABAAR. Positron emission tomography (PET) measures of GABAAR availability in schizophrenia, however, have not revealed consistent alterations in vivo. Animal studies using the GABAAR agonist [3H]-muscimol provide evidence that antipsychotic drugs influence GABAAR availability, in a region-specific manner, suggesting a potential confounding effect of these drugs. No such data, however, are available for more recently developed subunit-selective GABAAR radioligands. To address this, we combined a rat model of clinically relevant antipsychotic drug exposure with quantitative receptor autoradiography. Haloperidol (0.5 and 2 mg/kg/day) or drug vehicle were administered continuously to adult male Sprague-Dawley rats via osmotic mini-pumps for 28 days. Quantitative receptor autoradiography was then performed postmortem using the GABAAR subunit-selective radioligand [3H]-Ro15-4513 and the non-subunit selective radioligand [3H]-flumazenil. Chronic haloperidol exposure increased [3H]-Ro15-4513 binding in the CA1 sub-field of the rat dorsal hippocampus (p<0.01; q<0.01; d=+1.3), which was not dose-dependent. [3H]-flumazenil binding also increased in most rat brain regions (p<0.05; main effect of treatment), irrespective of the haloperidol dose. These data confirm previous findings that chronic haloperidol exposure influences the specific binding of non-subtype selective GABAAR radioligands and is the first to demonstrate a potential effect of haloperidol on the binding of a α1/5GABAAR-selective radioligand. Although caution should be exerted when extrapolating results from animals to patients, our data support a view that exposure to antipsychotics may be a confounding factor in PET studies of GABAAR in the context of schizophrenia.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur Neuropsychopharmacol

Publication Date





106 - 117


Autoradiography, GABA, Haloperidol, Schizophrenia